Stand up for the facts!

Misinformation isn't going away just because it's a new year. Support trusted, factual information with a tax deductible contribution to PolitiFact.

More Info

I would like to contribute

President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill, along with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Douglas Emhoff, arrive at the U.S. Capitol ahead of Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP/Tulis) President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill, along with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Douglas Emhoff, arrive at the U.S. Capitol ahead of Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP/Tulis)

President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill, along with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Douglas Emhoff, arrive at the U.S. Capitol ahead of Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP/Tulis)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy January 22, 2021

Social media users push evidence-free claim that Joe Biden repeated instructions from earpiece

If Your Time is short

  • Joe Biden was heard saying something as he walked through the U.S. Capitol doors held by a pair of U.S. Marines. It is not clear what he said. Some reporters heard, “Good looking Marines.”

  • Some social media users claimed that Biden said, “Salute the Marines.” They said the comment proved that Biden was repeating instructions fed to him through a hidden earpiece. The video itself, however, does not substantiate that claim.

Less than two hours before he was inaugurated, President Joe Biden arrived at the U.S. Capitol with Kamala Harris, his vice president.

News organizations broadcast the scene as Biden, Harris and their spouses emerged from the motorcade, climbed the steps to the Capitol and walked through its doors at about 10:30 a.m.

As Biden passed by a pair of U.S. Marines at the entryway, the wind picked up. Someone shouted a command. And Biden’s voice, through his mask, was picked up on the mics.

It isn’t clear what Biden said. But that moment — a comment made in passing as Biden entered the Capitol — fueled an unsubstantiated online rumor. 

The rumor: That Biden was using an earpiece to get through the day.

Social media users sharing a clip of the scene claimed that Biden was told through his headset to salute the Marines on his way inside, as presidents customarily do. They said that he repeated the command out loud instead of actually offering a salute.

"Biden fails to salute the Marines, hears the headset remind him to salute them and says it aloud," read a caption on one YouTube video, which showed a snippet from C-Span’s live coverage of the Inauguration Day events. The caption was later removed.

"Someone in Biden's earpiece told him to salute the marines, and Biden just repeated the words ‘salute the marines,’ because he is so used to just repeating what comes from his earpiece," said a Twitter user who also shared the same clip from C-Span.

Facebook posts sharing similar clips were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

Featured Fact-check

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

But the C-Span footage circulating as evidence of a Biden earpiece doesn’t actually prove what social media users claimed it does. There’s no indication from the clip that Biden was wearing an earpiece and taking orders through it. It’s not clear what he said, either.

Journalist Keith Olbermann, Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel and other social media users separately tweeted that they heard Biden say, "Good looking Marines."

"That’s a more reasonable explanation tha(n) ‘Biden had a secret earpiece yesterday, only once accidentally repeated his Deep State instructions, and a random guy noticed it,’" Weigel, who often debunks manipulated media through his Twitter feed, wrote in a second tweet.

PolitiFact reviewed C-Span’s footage and video of the same moment as shown by other other networks, such as PBS NewsHour. We found that Biden’s remarks were difficult to make out because of the wind and poor audio, and because he was wearing a mask.

The burden of proof is on the speaker, however. The videos shared on YouTube and Twitter did not provide conclusive evidence that Biden was following instructions from an earpiece. We saw no credible reports that he was wearing one as he entered the Capitol, either.

On the contrary, the social media claims resemble past conspiracy theories that targeted Biden during his campaign. Those claims alleged, without evidence, that Biden wore a wire or used a medical device to get answers from aides during the presidential debates.

We rate this statement False.

Our Sources

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Bill McCarthy

Social media users push evidence-free claim that Joe Biden repeated instructions from earpiece

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up